The issue political representation has become progressively more complex and litigious, in the element, as a result of success of the social movements in airing their demands for just representation of ‘groups’ or ‘identities’ that was unrecognized, such as those based on gender, the minority, disability, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. The emergence of new social movements and other complementary drifts, which work hand, in hand with movements, have threatened to change the status quo in fair representation in New Zealand. For example, the decrease of the electorate registration with main political parties, the emergence of the small parties and independents, and the decline of geo-political representation. The paper focuses to provide a foreword to and synthesis of some issues in political representation. The paper also aims to look at the impact and challenges that the social movements have fronted for political representation in New Zealand. The political parties in New Zealand over time have not quite articulated the element of political representation thus leaving the country to grapple with many political challenges (Pitkin 78).
Political representation is both a quite clear-cut also tricky to deal with it. Political scientists have come to agreement on the centrality and the significance of political representation to the community and its structures of governance. Political representation plays a key role in linking the citizens and the government. Handling the issue of political representation bring complication since it touches on the subjects and government through different intermediary institutions such as different structures of democracy, different electoral mechanisms, and the set-up of political parties, bureaucracies, and of late social movements (Tanner 146).
The issue of presence and variety in of New Zealand parliament in relation to political representation aims at looking at the composition of the parliament if it reflects the diverse groups within the populace. This in relation to people from non-English speaking origin, the women, and indigenous people of New Zealand. Women in New Zealand have continuously question about their absence in parliament and over time have increased their presence by demanding forms of direct and indirect prejudice that have hindered their efficient participation. At the end of 1998, 22 percent of House of Representative members and one-third of the senators in the New Zealand Federal parliament were women representatives. In the year 1994, the number of women in the cabinet position shoots from 6 percent to 13 percent in 1997. Despite the results, the country is still far from the number needed, which is approximately 33%, which will enable, women to influence significant policy decisions in parliament. New Zealand lags behind many other nations with respect to female representation, even those whose electoral structures do not reflect on proportional representation.
New Zealand in the year 1996 adopted the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system. The new electoral system enabled 51 women MPs join the 8 who were elected under the old system. For the last 9 years, women representatives have women has increased than in the earlier 77, in the election cycle of 2002. The sustained increase in the number of women MPs in New Zealand in parliament to almost 30% largely attributes change of the electoral system. Political analyst has pointed out that might not increase soon due to the stand of political; parties to oppose the current trend of an increasing number of female Mps. The increase in women representation is due to the pressure of the 1980s women’s movement on the labor party, which they demanded for fair representation in parliament. The change of the electoral system in New Zealand took effect in the 1990s due to the long struggle of the citizens to demand a better electoral system, which will block the main political parties who used to winning from manipulating the electoral process. The change of the electoral process in New Zealand took a different twist due inadequate accountability and transparency within the government structures. Because of the domineering of considerable political parties, it deprived the citizens a meaningful choice between the old political parties thus compelling majority of the citizens to vote for MMP system. MMP system of voting has resulted in progression of coalition governments, and it has also eliminated the single party mainstream government. In the 2005 election, the Labour re-emerged as the leading political party but also with support of other three minor political parties (Tanner 145).
In New Zealand, fair representation, in parliament, is not only in women, but also in cultural and ethnic groups such as the Maori, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and other diverse groups of people such as the gay community. The representation of the various groups in parliament enhances legitimacy, ownership and better decision-making within the government structures thus better governance. During the 2002-2005 parliaments, the number of women in parliament was almost 30% for the four previous electoral cycles, which is a milestone to gender affirmation. In 2005, the number of women elected was 39 out 121, which represented 32.2 % of the total number of seats. The MMP system of voting has too increased the number of representatives from indigenous Maori and other ethnic minorities.
The government majorly depends on political parties to select the parliamentary candidates to represent the societal diverse population. The ballot box provides a crucial sanction on the political parties, which do not comply with the needs of the people. In the labor party, it has relevant structures, which promote the, element of inclusiveness in the construction of the party list, which ensures there is balance in the selection of candidates. The women in the party get 40% slots and no one supports exceptional measures or additional number of the women candidates. The party confidence aims at fostering of the subsequent generation and the view of affirming gender balance, and this have been the main development within the party (Tanner 145).
The other party in New Zealand is the National Party and plays a crucial in the selection of candidates who then run for elective positions. The party has been traditionally dominated by men and women have found it hard to be selected and elected for winnable positions. They party tend to polarize selection by using merit and the use of informal quotas, which has made, many women within the party to be uncomfortable with the selection criterion. Some women in the National Party contrast their own party organizational structures and women’s networks adversely with Labour’s. Selecting electorate candidates is left to the local parties, who tend to select the own preferred candidate who will serve their interest while in power. Recent reforms within the National Party have seen the number of women selected for elective positions rise. The 2005 election was a milestone for women in the party since the number of women rose from 6 to 12,increasing the number in Labour’s women MPs to 25% overall. This was due the amended party structures to include more women in the party selection list (Uhr 456).
In relation to smaller parties, such as the Greens, the ACT, New Zealand First (NZF), and United Future, they still have small women ratio in their selection to the elective positions. The Greens and ACT poses 44.4% of women: men ratio as compared to 7.6% in New Zealand First (NZF). The Greens, which embraces democratic approach to select their candidates, stand out to be the most favorable small party, which has better women and diverse group representation. The other centre –to-right parties are not so strong in attaining gender balance issues within their party structures (Papadakos 123).
The increased representation in parliament has changed the decision regarding policy making in the parliament. The Question Time in the New Zealand plays a significant role in providing a forum in which the government is held accountable. Recently, the opposition parties have consolidated their efforts in coordinating their supplementary and oral questions thus making the opposition more effective. Many MPs have confessed that this will boost the number of women representatives in parliament has improved the political environment in the country. The shift to the MMP system of election and the minority coalition government presented an opportunity for transformation of the Select Committees. This made possible for the Select Committee to exercise their power in controlling the dynamics of central and opposition parties in the multi-Party Chamber. The Select Committees under the MMP are the most powerful bodies that control all the bills before the House. The committees give the public the opportunity to submit their input to the legislative proposals. Their committees have the power to start research, undertake investigation, travel, and visit, and generally analyze the government structures (Cowley 333).
Fair gender representation in parliament has resulted to progressive thinking about the issues of women which in views of many, embraces the politics of inclusiveness. The representation of underprivileged members of the society has boosted the legitimacy and the standing of parliament, which has resulted in sound decision -making within the government. Since the formation of the MMP, it has favored formation of multi-party government, which has enhanced the powers of parliament and reduced the powers of the Executive (Uhr 456).
As a result of legislation, parties have become aware of the importance of the people of Maori constituency. When Maori men were given an opportunity to vote in the year 1867, the number of Maori seats was then fixed. The Electoral Act of 1993 stipulated that the number of Maori seats in parliament can fall or increase depending on the whether they go to the general election or the Maori electoral roll. In 2002-2005 parliament, the number of seats of Maori has risen from 4 to 7.The Maori people inhabit a unique cultural space, and this has sparked a lot of debate in policy making between those who support(Labour and Greens) that Maori be considered as a culture and those who oppose (National and ACT) the idea (Cowley 336).
Since the formation of MMP, Asians who are 6.4% of the total population and being the third largest ethnic group have been able to be represented in the political arena (one National, two list MPs, one Labour). Through their outspoken leader, Pansy Wong, in the New Zealand parliament, Pang identifies that the issues of crime, access to health facilities and schools is of concern to all the ethnic groups. He blames the Asian community to their non-commitment to politics thus poor representation in the parliament.
The political parties in the New Zealand parliament always take diverse approaches in choosing their candidates and to structure their party lists. Labour Party f, or example, scrutinizes their party list to ensure that the overall balance exists thus guaranteeing equity in the party. On the other hand, the National Party, polarizes its selection on merit also employs the method of quotas. Most of the parties, however, discredit the use of the quota system of selection of candidates as it compromises on quality. To enhance equity in the government structures, women MPs should put input more positive measures to raise their numbers above the 28%-33% mark they are in now (Papadakos 123).
In conclusion, as a result of improved electoral system of Mixed Member Proportion (MMP), the number of women in parliament has increased to around 30%. There has also been a notable increase in representation of other ethnic groups such as the Maori and the Asians. Through fair representation in parliament their have been increased legitimacy and standing of parliament as institution given the duty of legislating laws. Equity has been realized where by the political parties embrace merit in issues of selecting their candidates for voting. The new system of voting has limited the dominance of the principal political parties, which pose poor governance. The representation has given the minor parties the green light to participate in running of the government. From the discussion, there have been numerous positive changes due to the factor of fair representation. Despite these attained blueprints, the political parties still need to devote more energy and advocate for even better representation (Cowley 334).
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